Today’s 6-3 loss to Tampa Bay certainly wasn’t as ugly as yesterday’s game, but that’s not saying much. The Yankees have set the bar pretty low this season and are now 5-9. Yes, it’s still early and there’s plenty of time to right the ship. But I must admit: I’m getting tired of writing about how this team is too talented to perform like this. While it’s true, it’s frustrating to watch. Get it together already.
On top of the general sluggish play, that this kind of performance continues to happen against the Rays makes it even worse. The Yankees have now lost four of five to Tampa Bay this season. Clearly, it’s not just about the Trop being a house of horrors for the Yankees, either. Tampa Bay has simply dominated the Bombers for a while now.
The Rays have won 17 of their last 22 games against the Yankees dating back to September 2019 (including Tampa Bay’s victory in the 2020 ALDS).— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) April 17, 2021
Let’s get to today’s takeaways after the jump.
The Yankees should have sent Tyler Glasnow packing early. The Rays’ ace clearly didn’t have his best stuff in this one, at least to start things out. He threw 30 pitches in the first inning, though it would have been fewer if not for Joey Wendle’s throwing error. Still, Glasnow had to battle but the Yankees just could not come through again and again. The Bombers loaded the bases in both the first and second innings, but came away with just one run total.
I’m less inclined to complain about the first inning mainly because the quality of at-bats in the second frame were far worse. Frankly, the first inning at-bats weren’t terrible, particularly after the error put runners on the corners with one out for Gleyber Torres. The shortstop fell behind 0-2 to Glasnow, which is basically a death knell. Instead, he fought back for a walk to load the bases for Brett Gardner. Glasnow got the best of Gardner, but it took seven pitches to do so.
In the second, both Gary Sánchez and Gio Urshela walked to lead off the inning. Glasnow was wild and nowhere near the zone. So naturally, after Rougned Odor took ball one on the first pitch, he popped out. At first, the aggression annoyed me considering the two walks in a row, but it’s not like Odor swung at a bad pitch.
That was a 96 MPH fastball over the heart of the plate. Missing pitches over the heart of the plate was a running theme in this one. At least DJ LeMahieu picked up Odor with an RBI single thereafter, which leveled the score at 1 at that stage.
After LeMahieu came Judge, who simply had an awful at-bat.
For the record: Judge reluctantly hacked at an eye-level fastball, then took a fastball right down the pipe to fall behind 0-2. He got one more middle-middle fastball, but whiffed to strike out. Aaron Hicks lined out softly thereafter to end the frame.
Glasnow made the Yankees pay for bailing him out. After LeMahieu’s single, the righty retired eight in a row and 11 of the last 12 batters he faced. I know Glasnow has nasty stuff even when he’s off his game, but this is a scenario that a good Yankees offense should capitalize on.
Tampa Bay’s starter basically only had his fastball “working” for him today. Saying it was effective almost gives him too much credit considering some of the fastballs the Yankees took or missed against him. Glasnow went to his heater 63 percent of the time this afternoon and recorded 10 whiffs on 33 swings (30 percent). His two breaking balls really weren’t effective for him today. Look at the locations on them:
All over the place. The Yankees weren’t going after them at all, swinging at just 8 of 37 breaking balls. Opponents have typically swung at half of Glasnow’s sliders and/or curveballs in the early going. You could say that the Yankees actually did a decent enough job eliminating those pitches. Of course, the problem again is that they missed fastballs over the plate.
Missing middle-middle mistakes. It wasn’t just against Glasnow that the Yankees’ lineup had bad at-bats against. The Yankees finally had something cooking again in the seventh inning against the Rays bullpen. Rougned Odor hit a home run (a 443-foot bomb) against southpaw Jeffrey Springs, which made it 5-2 at the time. It was one of the few mistake pitches that the Yankees actually squared up.
Kevin Cash summoned Colin McHugh thereafter to face the top of the Yankees’ order with one out. LeMahieu singled and then scored on Aaron Judge’s double to cut the deficit to two runs. Judge actually fell behind 0-2 in that at-bat on two hanging sliders, by the way, but fortunately he made up for that.
So, the struggling Aaron Hicks became the tying run at the dish. Today’s theme returned in his at-bat, which ended in a strikeout:
Pitches one and four were right there, but Hicks fouled them off before the strikeout. Giancarlo Stanton was next, albeit against Ryan Thompson:
Yes, Thompson is tough on righties from the angle he throws, but Stanton’s approach was bad here. He whiffed and took sliders up and over the middle, then chased one for strike three. From there, the Yankees went down quietly in the 8th and 9th.
Bad at-bats and not punishing meatballs is always a recipe for disaster. The Yankees scored just three runs but should have scored a whole lot more. Look at this heatmap which contains swinging strikes, fouls, and called strikes against Tampa Bay pitchers.
Aaron Boone and Gleyber Torres bungled the top of the seventh inning. When it rains, it pours. The offense obviously had another lackluster day, but a disjointed seventh inning turned out to be the difference in this game, especially considering that the Yankees plated a couple of runs in the bottom half.
The first curious decision: why did Aaron Boone decide to push Jordan Montgomery for a seventh inning? It’s not that the lefty wasn’t pitching well. He was decent enough through six, in spite of a couple of homers allowed (I’ll touch on Monty in the Leftovers), but when you have Gerrit Cole going tomorrow and a day off on Monday, go to your top relievers in a late and close game. Not to mention that this was the third time through the order for Montgomery.
The decision to stretch Montgomery backfired immediately. He issued a four pitch walk to Mike Brosseau to start the inning. Then, after ball one to Manuel Margot, Boone lifted his starter. Honestly: does the batter-by-batter approach ever work? I know non-Cole starters have struggled to give length this season, but I think you need to take a solid six from Montgomery and run with it, especially with this past Thursday off and none of the top relievers used yesterday. And again, you have Cole going tomorrow and Monday off. Go to the team’s strength, it’s bullpen! Just bad managing right there. Not only are the players looking sheepish and without focus, but so is Boone.
Even with Boone’s questionable decision, Jonathan Loaisiga almost bailed him out. Margot just beat out a double play and then should have been thrown out a second stealing. Kyle Higashioka made a perfect throw, but Gleyber Torres simply whiffed. It’s the type of fundamental mistake we’ve seen Torres make on a number of occasions so far. Day by day, Torres looks like less of a shortstop.
Instead of two outs and no one on, there was one out with Margot on second. Loaisiga retired Francisco Mejía for the second out. Maybe that could have been the third. Unfortunately though, a team can only get away with so many mistakes in a game, let alone an inning. Joey Wendle made them pay.
- Boone said that Gary Sánchez won’t play tomorrow after leaving this game early. That’s not a surprise, but at least X-Rays were negative on his hand. Hopefully he can return Tuesday against Atlanta.
- Jordan Montgomery surrendered homers to Mike Brosseau and Manuel Margot today, but I think he was mostly quite effective. He didn’t allow too many baserunners (4), limited hard contact (80.8 MPH exit velocity against — 86.3 if you remove the bunt), and saw an uptick in velocity (93.4 MPH, +1.8). The lefty was efficient and needed just over 80 pitches to complete six frames. The pitch count likely was why Boone pushed him for a seventh.
- Hitters four through eight were hitless in 17 at-bats, though they drew three walks. That won’t work.
Gerrit Cole goes to the mound tomorrow in attempt to avoid a sweep. Same time, same place. Have a good rest of your Saturday.